Growing up many of us have been told that looks are not the most important thing in the world. We have been trained to ignore them as much as possible. The whole thing was designed to prevent us from becoming arrogant and shallow. If looks do not matter, why do companies have dress codes, even though only few of them are for safety? Why do lawyers and bankers show up in suits? It is true: looks are not the most important thing. But they do matter.
Looks are a form of communication. And they say so much more than just what my favorite color is, or that I like cats. Lawyers and bankers wear suits to tell their clients that they are competent. Doctors want to see their mental health patients before sending them over to a specialist of mental health, to assess how badly they are. But Clothes are not just a way to communicate to the world around us that we are competent, or that we know we are attractive.
It is also a way to communicate to ourselves. Taking the time to put on some jewelry or using some mascara, tells us, that we respect and value ourselves and our bodies. And that is something that we most definitely want to focus on, especially if we do have a history of self-harm. Dressing appropriately and nice is also a way to respect the people around us. Because they are the ones looking at us, all day.
But there is one more benefit in taking the time to create a nice outfit and that may be the most crucial one: It allows us, to check in on ourselves. It allows us, to figure out how we are feeling. Even if it is just how we are feeling about a certain piece of clothing. It is a first step to checking in on our actual mental state. And it tells us, how we want to feel. Our personal style reflects who we are. Are we playful? Are we serious and focused on achievements?
When it comes to clothes, many of us have intuitively chosen a style at some point in our lives. And some of us may have chosen clothes based on our body-type and skin color. We have tried to rationalize what looks best on us based on scientific evidence. I see one problem with both approaches: The first does not even acknowledge the power of clothes and dressing well, the second looses all mystery. The second focuses very much on what will look good based on scientific evidence and may easily forget that we only look good, if we feel good. Of course often times we intuitively choose what we should choose according to science. But just because our color season says we should wear green, does not mean, we have to wear green, even if we hate the color.
Clothes have more purpose other than being a form of communication. They should also empower us. Clothes empower us, not only by making us feel good. But they empower us, by reflecting who we choose to be. If you have not done so within the last 12 months I highly encourage you to adjust your wardrobe. Envision who you want to be. Maybe even write it down or make a Pinterest board. Then go into your closet and ask yourself for every single piece that you own not only Marie Kondo’s question “Does this spark joy?” But also: “Is this in line with who I want to be?”.
Why is this so important? What is around us, reflects who we are. Clothes are not just around us. They are on us. They are not only serving us, they are covering our bodies. Surrounding our bodies. Thinking clothes would be a minor detail in a human’s life is a fatal mistake. Because they are what we see when we look at ourselves. They make us feel a certain way. And we need to learn to use that to our advantage. We need to figure out, how we want clothes to make us feel. And then we cannot rest until we find those clothes, that make us feel powerful.
Having high standards when it comes to clothes may be an indicator for being spoiled. But it may also mean, that we know what we want. That we know what we need. It is wonderful, if we are able express our needs. It is so incredibly powerful to be able to choose what we need rather than just take whatever comes our way first. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is actually a skill that is so valuable and important and applies to so many areas in life. Clothes just being a very good way to acquire that very skill.
Do not make the mistake in thinking, that wearing the newest trend will empower you. I am sorry to bust your bubble, it will not. Trends are there for people who do not know who they want to be. Trends are there for people who need the mass’ approval of who they are. But if we wear what other’s want us to wear, we are not utilizing the power that clothes have. Maybe we are even working against ourselves, because we are wearing clothes, that embody values, that are the exact opposite of our own values.
Never adjust your values to what you are wearing. Adjust what you are wearing to who you are.
There is nothing wrong with trying a trend, but there is everything wrong with wearing a trend that is not in line with who we are, just because it is a trend. If we need external approval to that extent, we are very insecure. Insecure to an unhealthy extent.
Clothes are a tool. They can empower us to an incredible extent, if we know how to do it. And learning how to handle clothes properly, finding out what makes us comfortable and empowered. Is more than just finding a style that suits us, that looks good on us. It is about finding who we want to be. It is about respecting who we want to be and it is about learning to understand and communicate what we need. And this goes beyond clothing.
This is what real confidence is. Knowing yourself well enough that you are not pleased with something that is not right for you, just because it is trending right now. Confidence means not wearing a trend unless it suits you. It means not needing the external approval that comes with wearing something trendy. It means feeling comfortable and empowered wearing something that represents your values, regardless of what anyone else says. Because you are wearing what is right for you.
Not in a way that you walk around in inappropriate clothes. But that for any occasion there is something in your closet that is appropriate and the right thing for you. And when you wear it to that occasion you will not feel out of place and you will not feel like you are betraying yourself. This is confidence.